So You Want To/Write a High Fantasy

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High Fantasy! The adventures on an epic scale of good and evil in imaginary worlds, filled with magic, dragons, and no more than medieval tech! Where the young person finds the MacGuffin and defeats the Evil Overlord and saves the world!

You may want to also read Write a Heroic Fantasy—the lines between that subgenre and this one are not fixed in concrete.

Necessary Tropes[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Setting - A world other than ours. It may have a nominal connection with present day Earth, such as being our remote past or future, but this plays no role in the plot. Mythopoeia is often put into play to define the very metaphysics of the world. Nevertheless it often resembles medieval Europe.
  • Scale - Epic. Power politics, wars, the death of nations, gods walking the earth, and the real threat of The End of the World as We Know It—which is why the genre is also known as epic fantasy.
  • The Big Bad is the Evil Overlord and really, really, really bad. He tends to be not so much a man as a personification of some evil and destructive force.
  • Winning by sheer brute force is more typical of Heroic Fantasy. The MacGuffin or some such piece of magic is commonly needed, though usually a fair amount of sneaking is needed.
  • Functional Magic


Choices, Choices[edit | hide]

Pitfalls[edit | hide]

"even in the most toxic culture, someone will choose decency".

Potential Subversions[edit | hide]

  • Because Destiny Says So is the commonest reason why the Farm Boy has to succeed. Developing other reasons can work. Perhaps the littlest wizard has to do the job because all the more powerful ones were massacred.
  • Morals. Black and White Morality is common. But shades of gray among the heroes often work. (Lighting up the Evil Overlord generally moves you out of the genre entirely.)

Writers' Lounge[edit | hide]

Suggested Themes and Aesops[edit | hide]

Potential Motifs[edit | hide]

Suggested Plots[edit | hide]

  • Revolt! the Orcs and/or Beastmen are bloody sick of being herded off to die in their thousands, and it's time for a change! Who is this upstart champion of the downtrodden and musclebound? None other than your main character!
  • War! An Evil Overlord bent on world domination is razing every kingdom in his wake. The heroes must unite the ever-bickering races of the world to stand against him!

Departments[edit | hide]

Set Designer / Location Scout[edit | hide]

Props Department[edit | hide]

  • Functional magic items work well


Costume Designer[edit | hide]

Casting Director[edit | hide]

Stunt Department[edit | hide]


Extra Credit[edit | hide]

The Epic Fails[edit | hide]